Natasha Staines

Our Guide to Competency- Based Interviews

We have seen an increase in the number of Competency Based interviews being conducted by our clients as part of their selection process. Not sure what this is or where you would start to prepare for this?  We have set out a guide to help you be ready for this type of interview

What is a Competency Based interview?

“There are a number of things you can do to prepare for a competency based interview. Our guide explains how. “

This type of interview can feel rather different to a conventional Face to face interview . Competency Based interviews are designed for the employer to assess your capability against the competency profile for the job in which you have applied for. They tend to focus on specific parts that are important to the job (ie. The skills, knowledge, behaviours and motivations)

The types of questions asked:

You may be asked to describe a situation at work which will demonstrate the competencies that are being sought after.  For example, if focus and working with people is required within the job, you may be asked a question where you need to describe a situation in which you have been up against a deadline that had to be met and where people were getting in the way of you being able to meet that deadline. Follow-up questions will then naturally follow including how you overcame that particular problem, what you said, and what was the overall outcome from that situation.

STARE Approach:

Some candidates find this type of tougher than traditional interviews, as you are constantly being asked about what your specific contribution to a situation was. If you are not used to this type of interview, you can use the STARE model to help plan their answers clearly.<

S              Detail the SITUATION you are referring to

T              Talk about the TASK responsibility or challenge you faced

A             Give a clear indication of the ACTION you undertook

R             Describe the RESULTS of your action – was this completed successfully? What went wrong and what did you learn from this

E           EVALUATE what you have learnt from the experience and this skills that it has given you for the future.


There are a number of things you can do to prepare for a competency based interview:

- Study the job profile and other information you have gathered about the job.  What are the key competencies? 

- Think back over the last 12/18 months and try to come up with 2 or 3 situations where you have demonstrated a high level of achievement against some [or all] of the key competencies.

- Concentrate on situations which tested your ability across the whole range of each competency, if you can.

- Occasionally, the best examples you may relate to your activities outside of work.  If, therefore, your present job does not give you much opportunity to display some of the competencies sought, think about which of your other activities do.

- Analyse each situation:

-How did it arise?

-What were the key stages?

-What was your specific contribution?

-What was the result?

- What did you learn from it?

Top tips for competency based interviews:

- Pick out the key skills within the job description, and come up with a pre-prepared example of how you have used that skill.

- Try to use as many different examples as you can to give more variety drawing from your life experiences as well as your work ones.

- Be truthful. Any embellishments you make will be found out quickly.

- Be emotive – people may not remember what you said but they will always remember how you made them feel – be happy and enthusiastic about the company, the job and to be at the interview. When you give your examples, talk about how you felt, e.g. “When my top KOL dropped out of the symposium at a days’ notice I was mortified but I knew that I had to dig-deep and find a solution to the situation” – this will take your listener on an emotional journey with you and make your example both interesting and compelling.

- Always talk about what you have done – acknowledge the team that you were working within and the contribution of others but make sure the extent of your personal involvement and achievements is clear.

- Be yourself – it is tempting to go into an interview “on your best behaviour” – of course, it’s important to be respectful, appropriate and not to be over-familiar but at the same time let your personality shine through. The aim is to leave the interview knowing that you have made a genuine, positive representation of yourself.

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